It should be noted that CRM software is only a tool, it doesn't produce the requisite results on its own, it requires the input of people and following of specific processes. When all three are taken into consideration (technology, people and processes) and effective management is added, on then will you have a successful CRM implementation.
I have compiled a list, not exhaustive, of best practice tips and points which should be considered when implementing a CRM strategy:
1. Compelling vision - A large number of CRM systems are implemented without any clear vision as to what the business issues are or what issues a CRM will improve or resolve. Also there tends not to be an outline of what the improvements are sought and if they will have a positive impact on your ROI. You have to set-out clear and achievable objectives from the outset in order to move forward more effectively. If needed, then invest in consultancy services with a CRM implementation organisation.
2. Pre-planning is essential – This is a fundamental stage of any CRM strategy. If your pre-planning is flawed it is unlikely your CRM project will succeed. You must identify who your customers are, their needs and how they should be managed. You must define and map out your requirements and have consensus amongst the key stakeholders and managers in the business. Attention to detail is imperative when outlining the business needs and what you need to get from the CRM as well as the outcome you want to achieve. Consideration must be had for your budget and resources and you must set aside time and part of your budget to invest in the project, not only to oversee the implementation stage but also the ongoing support and maintenance of the system after it has been implemented.
3. Future-planning – You need foresight in terms of what changes your business may encounter and how you are likely to manage your customers differently in the future. The system should be dynamic and flexible to accommodate any potential changes. You have to future proof your CRM by considering the design, development and implementation stages.
4. Project management – CRM projects tend to be under resourced. This is often due to lack of vision or a lack of time spent on the pre-planning phase. You must have realistic time-scales for such a project and I would always recommend you applied a phased deployment and integration approach. You have to allocate time to review resources, engage in discussions with the software implementers on a continuous basis to ensure that time-scales can be and are being achieved.
5. Test, test, test – This is a key phase during the development and pre-launch stage of your CRM system and continuous testing cannot be under-estimated. You have to understand and accept that the system will not initially be perfect and there will be issues identified which can be resolved, however same will only be identified and cured if the system is tested properly.
6. Invest in training - No matter your budget, it is essential that you invest in training. Everyone is different; some people will embrace a new system and some will be more sceptical. The project manager and trainer should have strategies for both. Staff from all departments require to be involved and be trained on how to use the system and use it effectively and efficiently to get their job done. There is little point in having a system which staff cannot and don't know how to operate.
7. Be flexible and fluid with the design - Be prepared for ongoing tweaking as your CRM will need to adapt and change just as your requirements will adapt and change. It is very rare to design a complex CRM system which over time does not require to be varied from the original design as there will be a scenario or eventuality which hasn't been scoped out in the original planning and design stages.
8. Ongoing Feedback – I would recommended having a few designated super-users who collate feedback from users across the business. These super-uses should monitor the ongoing progress of all users and how the system affects them in terms of them performing their job effectively and ensuring the CRM is delivering on its objectives.
9. Manage your Database – I am of the view that it is imperative that you perform an audit on your existing database and any additional data you may wish to add into the system. Having your data "cleaned" before re-importing is another essential task as there is little point adding old or incomplete data to your system. There must be clearly defined and detailed protocols for new data being added into your system in that accurate and specific information is collected and only then added to your CRM. Remember rubbish in, rubbish out!
10. Choose wisely – For such an important investment take the time to consider all of your options in respect of both the technology and the company you choose to partner with. Be confident that both can deliver exactly what you need and what is required. Choosing the wrong system or partner can scupper any changes you have in implementing an effective CRM strategy and hinder its effectiveness.
Implementing a CRM system into your organisation takes a lot of planning and consideration. It also requires commitment to making it work from everyone involved. It can not and should not be implemented and left to run on its own without constant monitoring and maintenance.
Take your time to research and plan and don't be dissuaded from employing the consultancy services of experienced CRM implementation strategists. Remember that one of the fundamental aims of a CRM system is to increase your ROI and to make your business processes more efficient and so it is worth investing the time and effort to get it right.